The US Air Force (USAF) has named the HH-60W – its new combat rescue helicopter – and has awarded Sikorsky a second low rate initial production (LRIP) contract as flight-testing continues.
Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara M Barrett, revealed that the HH-60W will be known as the Jolly Green II in USAF service at the Air Force Association (AFA) Air Warfare Symposium on February 27.
The Jolly Green II name pays homage to the Vietnam War-era HH-3E ‘Jolly Green Giant’ and HH-53C ‘Super Jolly Green Giant’ crews who pioneered the US military’s combat search and rescue (CSAR) mission in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Barrett said: “Reviving the Jolly Green name [honours] our combat search and rescue crews past and present. Those who operate this aircraft will embody the motto: ‘these things we do, that others may live’. In the hands of our airmen, this aircraft ensures the rescue community can perform their duties better than ever.”
The Jolly Green II will replace the USAF’s HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters in the CSAR role. The platform is one of the latest members of the H-60 Black Hawk family, and features a new fuel system featuring nearly double the capacity of the main fuel tank compared with the UH-60M Black Hawk – giving USAF combat rescue crews extended range and more capability to rescue those injured in the battlespace. The HH-60W also features more capable defensive systems such as vulnerability reduction, expanded adverse weather sensor capabilities, and cyber-security – along with more comprehensive net-centric requirements that are not currently available with the Pave Hawk.
The HH-60W has been officially named as the 'Jolly Green II' by the USAF and makes debut at AFA Air Warfare Symposium.
USAF Chief of Staff, Gen David Goldfein, added: “Performing combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for the joint force is what the HH-60W is built to do. The Jolly Green II gives us extended range and better capability.
“I was grateful for a ride out of enemy territory when I needed it and I can tell you first-hand that this aircraft will save lives,” he said, referring to his May 2, 1999, ejection from an F-16 when he was shot down over western Serbia during operation Allied Force and rescued by NATO CSAR forces.
Following the name reveal, Sikorsky – a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin – announced that it will produce an additional 12 aircraft following the awarding of the LRIP Lot II contract, worth more than US$500m. The company stated, “the award follows a string of significant [programme] milestones in 2019, including first flight, a Milestone C decision by the air force, and award of the first [LRIP] contract for [ten] aircraft.”
The HH-60W – developed under the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) programme – was moved into LRIP by the USAF in September 2019. The development programme continues to progress, following an aggressive flight test schedule to meet key milestones.
Greg Hames, Sikorsky’s CRH programme director, said: “This second contract award demonstrates the confidence the [USAF] has in Sikorsky’s proven ability to deliver and support the next-generation [CSAR] helicopter. Our team works daily – and in close collaboration with our customer – to ensure we build and deliver this highly capable and much-needed helicopter to the warfighter."
The USAF plans to order up to 108 Jolly Green IIs to replace its fleet of 96 HH-60G Pave Hawks. Sikorsky states that there are currently seven HH-60Ws flying, all of which are currently undergoing expanded flight tests to support the path forward to Required Assets Available (RAA) – which it is on track to meet this year. Two of the HH-60Ws are in testing with the USAF’s 413th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) at Duke Field – a part of Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida. The first two operational 'Jolly Green II' units will be the 41st Rescue Squadron (RQS) at Moody AFB, Georgia, and the 512th RQS at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.